Deedra Von Fange, of Farmington, knew there was something not quite right with the email in her inbox on April 23 around 4:46 a.m.
The note – from “Marshall Dempsey, Clerk of Court” – was a “Notice to Appear” and the grammar in the note was not what one would expect.
“This is to inform you to appear in the Court on the April 30 for your case hearing,” the message read. “You are kindly asked to prepare and bring the documents relating to the case to Court on the specified date.”
The message noted that should Von Fange not appear in court, “the case will be heard in your absence.”
As a “kind gesture,” the complete details of the “Court Notice” were sent in an attachment for Von Fange to review – a file she was wise in not opening.
“I knew better than to do that,” she said.
On Monday, Von Fange called the St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney’s office to report the email. The office referred her to the court office to inform them of the email she received.
“Someone referred me to the Farmington municipal court, so I did that,” she said. “I called the Farmington Police Department and reported it.”
Her next call was to the Daily Journal office to let others know about the scam.
“My husband and I are tech-savvy enough that we know better (than to open the attachment),” she said. “But, I must admit, when I first read it I was like ‘what?’ But, I knew better than to open it.”
The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips on how to spot these bogus emails.
Courts do not typically summon people via email, text message or phone. Unless you are involved in a case and have opted into receiving email communications, courts normally communicate through mail (the U.S. Postal Service).
Confirm with the court. If you ever question whether you need to appear in court, call the court system to check.
Search for the phone number on the web; don’t call a number in the email.
Watch out for variations. A similar scam tells victims that they missed or are being summoned for jury duty.
Ignore calls for immediate action. Scammers try to get you to act before you think by creating a sense of urgency.
Like Von Fange, anyone receiving emails regarding a court case should contact the state or federal court offices before opening any attachments or links.
More information about scams can be found at www.bbb.org/council/bbb-scam-stopper.